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On Saturday, September 4th, 2004 – at around 11am – I had my first date with my now wife at Bar Contessa on Darling Street, Balmain, Sydney.
It was also the first time we met thanks to an incident involving her inability to reverse park and my unbridled generosity to come to her aid.
It was a weird day.
As we walked into the coffee shop, I sat down and was surprised to see her sit next to me.
Not opposite – as protocol states – but right next to me.
I thought that was the coolest thing I had ever seen in my life.
By that simple action, I felt I’d was in the company of someone different … someone interesting … someone special.
I know that makes me sound like I was some kind of loser, and maybe I was/am, but that simple gesture made a massive impression on me, demonstrated by the fact that within weeks of that initial meeting, we were living together in Singapore … having bypassed the issues of not really knowing each other, having to tell our families what we were doing, packing our houses and selling our cars and – in my case – being rushed to hospital for an emergency operation.
But the point of this post isn’t that you shouldn’t rush into things – though that might be what Jill would say – it’s that we tend to follow a set of ‘work protocols’ that ultimately work against us.
What do I mean?
Well when you have a meeting with a client, do you sit next to them or opposite them?
In other words, do you create an atmosphere of opposing sides or togetherness?
What about when you email a client?
Do you always have a reason for contact or do you sometimes write just to say ‘hello?’
I remember when we first started cynic.
With the bear minimum in place, we managed to get our first client – Virgin.
We were incredibly excited right until we saw the contract and read that their terms of business stated payment was in [I think] 90 days.
The reality was we had launched the company on an absolute shoestring so we had just about enough money to last us 30 days.
In other words, we were in this mad situation where we had a client – a prestigious client – but we couldn’t afford to take on their business.
Against all professional company protocol, we approached them and asked if they would agree to 30 day payment terms instead … and guess what, they said yes.
Alright, confession time …
1. We had literally nothing to lose in asking.
2. I’m hardly known for my sense of professionalism.
3. George – most importantly – was [and is] a personal friend of Mr B, so they were hardly going to fuck off their bosses mate.
… but the fact is, because we asked and they said yes, we were able to embark on a wonderful adventurous experiment that lasted 8 glorious years .
But what if we hadn’t asked?
What if we felt ‘the unspoken rules’ of business protocol had to be followed?
Well, let’s be honest, no one will ever know but I’m pretty confident I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing, doubt I’d of done what I’d done, doubt I’d of lived where I’d lived and doubt I’d be married to who I married.
In short, I feel that single question changed the course of my professional career, just like Jill’s simple gesture changed – for better or worse – the rest of her life.
The point of this post is that we like to stick with ways of living and working because it’s what we feel is ‘the norm’ and while I’m not advocating a total change of approach and behaviour just to shake things up, it might be worth reviewing the way you do things because by simply changing a few things here or there, it may literally change the way the rest of your career – if not life – turns out.
For the better.
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